Fish is the cheapest and most important source of animal protein in the diet of the Malawians. Therefore it is the Malawi Government's aim to “… maximize the safe sustainable yield from these fish stocks, which can economically be exploited from the national waters…” (OPC, 1988). The south-east arm of Lake Malawi, the Upper Shire River and Lake Malombe are considered as the most productive and most heavily exploited areas of the Malawian water bodies. Chambo is economically the most valuable fish and plays an important role, especially in the urban diet.
Current fisheries management regulations were formulated purely on the basis of biological research, carried out more than 10 years ago, and their enforcement has never been carried out effectively.
The Chambo Fisheries Research project aims to provide recommendations for a new management plan, in response to the Malawi Fisheries Department's call for a research programme, which “… will relate to the Chambo fisheries in the heavily exploited areas of the south-east arm of Lake Malawi, the Upper Shire River and Lake Malombe.” (OPC, 1988)
Socioeconomic research has been done to assess the present economic status of the fisherfolk, “to obtain a thourough understanding of the complex dynamics of rural development in general, and of fisheries development in particular…” (Haque and Tietze, 1988), and to estimate how new management measures may effect the various parts of the fishing communities, especially the most needy.
Women often play a major role in small-scale fisheries, “… they may be producers in their own rights, may directly support men's activities, all of which are crucial to the welfare of their families and community…,” (Haque and Tietze, 1988).
Therefore, gender aspects have to be considered in any fisheries management plan.
To obtain information about the role of women in the Chambo fisheries, all socioeconomic surveys on fishing communities, carried out by the Chambo Fisheries Research project, included gender specific aspects.
Two case studies elucidate the function female headed households have in fishing communities. Supplementary information has been gathered in a baseline survey on fisherman entrepreneurs (Mdaihli, M. and Donda, Steve, 1991b) and a fish marketing survey (Mdaihli, M. et al., 1992, in preparation).
The two case studies were carried out in two villages in the project area, namely Namalaka and Chapola (a short description of the two villages is given in Mdaihli, M. and Donda, S., 1991a).
An initial census recorded 130 female headed households in Namalaka and 137 in Chapola. Of these, a random sample of 25% from each village was selected.
The interviews (with a previously prepared and tested questionnaire) were carried out, under supervision of the socioeconomist, by her counterpart and two Technical Assistants of the Fisheries Department, Mangochi, in November/December 1990.
The total number of households in Namalaka is 352, 37% of which are headed by females. Each female head feeds on average 4.5 persons and their mean age is 51 years. Most are divorced (73%) or widowed (18%). Almost all female householders were born in Namalaka, only 12% came from outside.
The economic potential of the female headed households is quite poor. They cultivate on average 1.8 acres of land, mainly inherited from their parents, or allocated by the village headman. They are not able to enlarge their gardens to increase subsistence production, because of labour and capital shortages.
After exhausting their own crops, on average four months after harvest, they depend entirely upon cash-income generating activities like animal husbandry, small-scale business or Ganyu (local name for paid labour), which provide them, on average, with K18 per month (Fig. 1).1
Figure 1: Cash income sources of female householders in Namalaka
1 The official purchase price of a bag of maize (90kg), which provides a family of four persons with 80% of their calory requirements for one month, was K35 at the time of writing this report.
Animal husbandry, as a cash income source, plays a bigger role than indicated above. Female householders were reluctant to give the correct figures, because of their bad experience with a credit programme of the Liwonde Agricultural Development Division (LADD), which provided them with a loan, and finally confiscated livestock from the participants that were unable to pay back.
Paid labourers are hired on a daily basis. Due to a lack of higher paid jobs, they will even accept a daily wage of MK0.50.2 The small-scale business women run local bakeries or sell handicrafts. The female householders in Namalaka mentioned that they do not get support from neighbours or family members.
With the income mentioned above, they cannot afford to feed their families well. Table 1 shows the frequency with which various foods were purchased, to supplement home produce.
Table 1: Purchased commodities
|Commodity||Frequency of purchase|
Although Namalaka is a lakeshore village (and therefore fishing, fish processing and marketing could be a cash income source for females), no female head of household is actively engaged in fishing-related activities. 30% of female householders pointed out, that they would like to start fish processing and fish trading, if they could get a cash loan. A further 22% said they would use a loan to finance a bakery or maize trade. A high percentage (48%) of the respondents were reluctant to discuss what they would do with a loan.
2One Malawian Kwacha (MK) = $ 0.37
About ⅓ of Chapola householders are headed by women, mainly divorced or widowed. Their mean age is 50 years. They each feed on average 4.5 persons. The majority of the females were born in Chapola, only 6% came from elsewhere. On average they cultivate 3.4 acres of land, enabling them to grow maize home consumption for six months of the year. Most of them inherited the land from parents, 15% received it as an allocation from the village headman, and 3% just occupied a piece of land without any official permission.
The female householders trade farm products or firewood (39%), run a small-scale business such as a brewery or a bakery (33%) or work as hired labourers (9%) to meet their cash requirements. In addition, 36% of them keep livestock (chickens, ducks and goats), to sell in times of extreme hardship.
The ones who do not have any access to cash income (18%), are supported by their families. The average age of this group of householders (35 years) shows that it is composed not only of very old women who are physically incapable of working, but also some young ones.
None of the female heads of households are engaged in fishing, fish processing or trading, which is surprising since many women from outside the project area operate as fish traders on Chapola beach. Of the Chapola women interviewed, some would like to start fish trading (Fig.2) but say they are unable to finance such an enterprise. Since some female fish traders from outside Chapola started with only K10–15, it is obvious that other factors are preventing such business ventures.
Figure 2: Response to the question “How would you use a loan?”
Women's role in fish production
A frame survey of the south-east arm of Lake Malawi, the Upper Shire River and Lake Malombe, carried out by the Chambo Fisheries Research project in January 1990 (Alimoso et al.) indicated that fishing is done entirely by men. Licence statistics of the Fisheries Department show the same result. Rarely, women may own shore-operated gears, such as a certain kind of mosquito net or handline. Women in the project area feel physically incapable of being engaged in fishing, since it is strenuous, and mainly nocturnal business, traditionally done by men. Women have their own tasks like cultivating, harvesting, purchasing and preparing food, taking care of children, carrying water, cleaning and washing. Females advanced enough to consider fishing as an income source (e.g. as a “manager”), would be constrained by their lack of capital. Fishing equipment is expensive, and although women in the matri-lineal Yao-society are allowed to keep their own savings, they cannot accumulate sufficient start-up money. Fishing equipment is traditionally bequeathed only to male members of the family.
The role of women in fish trading
Female participation in fish trading is rather low in the project area. About 15% of the fish traders who serve the traditional sector of the fishery are females. Fish marketing in the semi-industrial and industrial sector of the fishery is also mainly done by men.
The main factors that prevent females from taking up fish processing and fish trading are the traditional patterns of labour division, the lack of start-up capital and the limited access to the resource.
An exceptional area within the project region is minor stratum 2.3. There about 50% of the fish traders are females, often wives of fisherman entrepreneurs. They trade their husband's catch for their own account. The fisherfolk in minor stratum 2.3 (mainly christian Tumbuka and Tonga) depend almost entirely upon fishing. Cultivation is hardly possible for environmental reasons, and this may allow fishermen's wives time for fish trading. Furthermore, Tumbuka and Tonga traditions allow more equal division of labour than is allowed in the muslim Yao culture.
In minor stratum 2.5 female participation in fish trading is also above average (32%), possibly as a result of the joint effort of two German funded development aid projects, which aim at the promotion of women in rural areas.
The economic performance of female fish traders is very similar to their male colleagues.
In terms of working capital and profit per fish trading trip no statistically significant difference was found between genders, but women were rarely found among the few traders who have more than MK1000 working capital and make more than MK600 profit per fish trading trip.
Male and female fish traders use the same kind of processing and transport equipment, and the value of their property does not differ significantly. Again, the higher value classes contain a few female traders only.
Female fish traders are less targetted on Chambo, the most valuable fish caught in the project area, than male traders (table 2).
Table 2: Target species, by gender (%)
|Species||Female traders||Male traders|
(responses are not mutually exclusive)
The data for Usipa and Utaka should be viewed with caution. The main Usipa and Utaka catching areas happen to be the areas with the highest female employment in fish trading. As mentioned above, other factors than the main species caught also influence female participation in this business.
About half of the fish traders, males as well as females, reside further than 20km from the beach, where they buy the fish.
Female fish traders are generally younger than the males. The starting age does not differ significantly, which suggests that female engagement in fish trading is a rather recent development (or that they drop out sooner).
The majority of female fish traders are heads of households (single 21%, divorced 29%, widowed 11%). The mean household size (eight people) does not differ significantly between genders. (Mdaihli, M. et al., in preparation).
A preliminary assessment of the Chambo fishery in Lake Malombe has recently been completed (Van Zalinge et al., 1991). It showed that the Chambo fishery has collapsed.
The main reason for the decline in catch appears to be excessive capture of juvenile Chambo by beach seines (mainly Kambuzi seine nets), and Nkacha nets.
The paper recommends, as a first step, strict enforcement of the existing regulations, which alone could substantially contribute towards the recovery of the Chambo stocks.
A more effective option may be to ban the use of Kambuzi seines and Nkacha nets, which has been discussed, but not yet recommended.
The possible impact of such a management plan upon fishing communities has to be taken into consideration by decision makers.
With a mean monthly cash income of K20, and a crop production sufficient for only 4–6 months per year, the households headed by women are among the poorest. Although the majority of them is not engaged in fishing related activities, it should not be assumed that they would be unaffected by a ban on Kambuzi seine nets and Nkacha nets. In Chapola for example, where 33% of the female heads of households run a small-scale business, their main customers are fishermen and fish traders, mostly targetted on Kambuzi. If, due to new management measures, the Kambuzi fishery was stopped, the small businesses may collapse as a result of lost customers.
Furthermore, only 70% of the female headed households of Chapola can afford to buy Kambuzi at a beach price of MK 0.50/kg. A sudden decline in Kambuzi catches would be followed by an immediate increase in fish price. As a result, an increased number of female headed households would no longer be able to buy Kambuzi for home consumption, and this would have an negative effect upon the household's diet. The same scenario could be given for Namalaka, where Kambuzi is mainly caught by Nkacha and Chirimila nets. Only 66% of the female headed households there can afford to buy Kambuzi (which at K0.70 per kg is the cheapest fish), frequently.
A high proportion of female fish traders is targetted on the smaller fish Kambuzi and Usipa, which is also caught in Kambuzi seine nets, especially in minor stratum 2.3.
Female fish traders would possibly be unable to change to the much more valuable Chambo fishery, since this would require a change of target beaches, where they would face higher competition from other traders.
Therefore, the need to maintain the highly valuable Chambo stock must be balanced by the necessity to safeguard the income and the nutritional contribution provided by the Kambuzi fishery.
Alimoso, S.B., M.B.D. Seisay, N.P. van Zalinge, M. Mdaihli and S.J. Donda. 1990 Frame survey of the south-east arm of Lake Malawi, the Upper Shire and Lake Malombe. GOM/UNDP/FAO Chambo Fisheries Research Project, Malawi. FI:DP/MLW/86/013, Field document 5:9p.
Hague, F. and U. Tietze, 1988 Women in fishing comunities, FAO, Fisheries Industries Division, Fisheries Department, Rome.
Mdaihli, M. and S.J. Donda. 1991a) The economic status of crew members. GOM/UNDP/FAO Chambo Fisheries Research Project, Malawi. FI:DP/MLW/86/013, Field document 12:18p
1991b) Fisherman entrepreneurs - a baseline survey. GOM/UNDP/FAO Chambo Fisheries Research Project, Malawi. FI:DP/MLW/86/013, Field document 11:65p.
Office of the President and Cabinet, 1988 Department of Economic Planning and Development: Statement of Development Policies 1987 – 1996, Zomba.
Van Zalinge, N.P., S.B. Alimoso, S.J. Donda, M. Mdaihli, M.B.D. Seisay and G.F. Turner. 1991 Preliminary note on the decline of Chambo catches in Lake Malombe. GOM/UNDP/FAO Chambo Fisheries Research Project, Malawi. FI:DP/MLW/86/013, Field document 9:7p.
Mdaihli, M., M. Hara and M. Banda. 1992 Fish marketing in Lake Malombe, the Upper shire and the south-east arm of Lake Malawi. GOM/UNDP/FAO Chambo Fisheries Research Project, Malawi. FI:DP/MLW/86/013, in preparation.
LIST OF CHAMBO FISHERIES RESEARCH REPORTS
Field Documents/Technical Reports
STATISTICAL AND COMPUTING ASPECTS IN DEVELOPING STATISTICAL SYSTEMS IN MALAWI by C. Stamatopoulos. Field Document 1, July 1989.
PREPARATION OF A BASELINE SURVEY OF THE ARTISANAL FISHERIES ON LAKE MALAWI by B. Horemans. Field Document 2, February 1990.
STATISTICAL AND COMPUTING ASPECTS OF THE CHAMBO FISHERIES by R. Mahon. Field Document 3, June 1990.
A DATABASE FOR THE TRADITIONAL CHAMBO FISHERIES STATISTICAL SURVEY by R. Mahon., S. Alimoso, C. Stamatopoulos, and N.P. van Zalinge. Field Document 4, June 1990.
FRAME SURVEY OF THE SOUTH EAST ARM OF LAKE MALAWI, THE UPPER SHIRE RIVER AND LAKE MALOMBE by S.B. Alimoso, M.B.D. Seisay, N.P. van Zalinge, M. Mdaihli and S. Donda. Field Document 5, July 1990.
AN EFFICIENT METHOD FOR CATCH-EFFORT SAMPLING OF THE ARTISANAL CHAMBO FISHERIES OF THE SOUTH EAST ARM OF LAKE MALAWI, THE UPPER SHIRE RIVER AND LAKE MALOMBE by S.B. Alimoso, M.B.D. Seisay and N.P. van Zalinge. Field Document 6, March 1991.
MTF - MALAWI TRADITIONAL FISHERIES, COMPUTER USER MANUAL by C. Stamatopoulos. Field Document 7, March 1991.
ESTIMATION OF CONVERSION FACTORS FOR CONTAINERS USED IN TRADITIONAL FISHERIES FOR CHAMBO by M.B.D. Seisay and J. Phiri. Field Document 8 in prep.
PRELIMINARY NOTE ON THE DECLINE OF THE CHAMBO CATCHES IN LAKE MALOMBE by N.P. van Zalinge, S.B. Alimoso, S.J. Donda, M. Mdaihli, M.B.D. Seisay and G.F. Turner. Field Document 9, March 1991.
FISH MARKETING IN THE MANGOCHI AREA OF MALAWI by D.S. Liao. Field Document 10 in prep.
FISHERMAN ENTREPRENEURS - A BASELINE SURVEY by M. Mdaihli and S. Donda. Field Document 11, July 1991.
THE ECONOMIC STATUS OF CREW MEMBERS by M. Mdaihli and S. Donda. Field Document 12, June 1991.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN CHAMBO FISHERIES by M. Mdaihli and S. Donda. Field Document 13, June 1991.
AN EVALUATION OF THE MALAWI TRADITIONAL FISHERIES CATCH ASSESSMENT SURVEY by G.F. Turner, M.B.D. Seisay and N.P. van Zalinge. Field Document 14, March 1992.
VALIDITY CHECK IN CATCH EFFORT SAMPLING IN THE TRADITIONAL CHAMBO FISHERIES IN THE SOUTH-EAST ARM OF LAKE MALAWI, THE UPPER SHIRE RIVER AND LAKE MALOMBE by M.B.D. Seisay, H.J. Phiri and P.K. Mpezeni. Field Document 15, October 1991.